Eritrea accuses Ethiopia of obstructing its efforts to rejoin IGAD
By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
(ADDIS ABABA) – Eritrea ahs accused rival Ethiopia, of being an obstacle to its efforts to reactivate its membership in the regional grouping of East African nations, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
Eritrea’s accusation came on Thursday, days after Kenyan president, Mwai Kibaki, urged the Red Sea nation to support regional peace initiatives before it rejoins IGAD; an eight-country, East African regional development organisation.
At a press conference he held in Nairobi, the Eritrean ambassador to Kenya, Beyene Russom said that Ethiopia, being the chair of IGAD, is hampering Eritrea’s efforts to rejoin the group.
After IGAD member states accused Asmara of failing to cooperate in regional peace and having ties with some destabilising forces, Eritrea withdrew from IGAD in 2007.
After a four-year absence Eritrea officially applied to return to the regional bloc in 2011.
IGAD is mainly tasked with maintaining regional peace, security and supporting regional development. Ethiopia,Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti, Sudan, Somalia Eritrea and South Sudan are its member states.
Ready for peace talks
Despite the accusations, Russom however affirmed that his country is ready to engage in dialogue but on the condition that Ethiopia pulls out its troops from “territories of Eritrea”.
“All countries should see us as strategic friends. But you know we are still not on good terms with Ethiopia because of the border conflict. They should have withdrawn their forces, we have told the world including Ethiopia we can start our diplomatic relations even tomorrow when they withdraw their troops,” he said.
In September South Sudan’s minister for cabinet affairs, Deng Alor said that both Addis Ababa and Asmara had given the green light to come for peace talks to resolve their long-standing border row.
Alor then said that the mediation talks, initiated by South Sudan, will start very soon.
Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a 1998-2000 border war that killed over 70,000 people. The fighting ended in 2000 after the two sides signed the Algiers peace agreement by which the dispute was referred for international arbitration.
The UN founded Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission awarded the contested key town of Badme to Eritrea.
However, Ethiopia did not comply with the ruling. Ethiopia insists on ave more discussion on the issue and refused to withdraw its troops from the conflict area.
Asmara to its side says that Addis Ababa should respect the commission’s ruling.